Walking Home Alone (Part 1)

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Walking Home Alone (Part 1)

Trigger Warning: Description of Violent Attacks

Panel 1

[Caption] 1st Time .11 years old, walking home from school. A man appears and grabs me. I yell. He let go. I ran.

Panel 2

[Caption] 2nd Time. 16 years old, walking home from school. Doorstep of my home. Man grabs me neck, holds a weapon. I scream for my life. He runs.

Panel 3

[Image] Two figures speaking to each other. Figure one is a woman, looking happy. Figure two is a man, and looks confused and/or concerned.

The woman: “So I’m pretty lucky, I’ve only been attacked twice. I’m halfway through my 20’s already!”
The man: “. . . “.

Panel 4

[Image] Same two people. The woman is holding her hands out in a “whoa” motion, and the man is looking upset.

Man “Um, we have very different definitions of luck…”ONLY? TWICE?!”

Woman: “So far. Don’t jinx me.”

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I am a woman in my mid/late twenties and I consider myself very lucky: I have only been physically attacked twice in my life.  Once when I was eleven walking home from school, and a man appeared out of a driveway and grabbed me.  I fell, yelped, and was upright again in time to watch him run across the street and look at me, waiting to see if help would come.  I bolted, and made it to my grandmother’s house with nothing worse than a skinned elbow.

The second time, I was sixteen, and I was walking home from school again.  I lived in a very safe neighbourhood.  I was fumbling with my house keys on the doorstep of my family’s home when I heard a shuffle behind me.  I turned around just in time to see a face and a hand reaching out to my neck.  Instinctively, I turned around, twisted to try to lessen his grip, and caught a glimpse of something metallic and sharp as he closed his hand around my neck.  By this point I was screaming bloody murder, and as soon as his hand closed, he released it, and ran off.  To this day I don’t know if the shiny thing his other hand was holding was a knife, a nail, or just a really sharp pencil.

These are barely blips on the radar compared to the terror many women experience, and yet they taught me that girls and women have to worry about things that their male counterparts – even the best well-meaning friends – never even consider.  When I go out now, I call a cab, since I am lucky enough to afford it, or I bring the girlfriends who, like me, know the dangers of walking while female.  It tends to cost more to get home safely for me than for a man.  If I do take public transport, I walk to my bus-stop with my ears pricked right up, aware of every shadow in the streetlights around me.  When I’m walking I’ll have my hands around my keys in my coat pocket. I change sides of the street, turn around and double-back, and have my phone pre-dialed to 911 if I notice a man walking anywhere in the vicinity.

I don’t think about these actions much – they are just a part of my everyday life.  But when I stop, and look at my fear straight on, I realize that it’s part of a shared terror that almost all women face, albeit in widely varying degrees.  Trying to get home safely can be a dangerous activity when you are female.

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3 responses to “Walking Home Alone (Part 1)”

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  1. Leah says: |
    May 7, 2013 at 11:05 am

    I don’t think there’s a Woman out there that couldn’t relate to this story. Everyone I know has a story and is apprehensive in one way or another (when walking down the street alone).

  2. Chris says: |
    May 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I’ve enjoyed Empathize This. Actually, enjoyed is entirely the wrong word. I’ve appreciated it? Let’s go with that. I won’t pretend to fully understand (emotionally or even academically) all the issues raised/to be raised. I really don’t expect to, either. Not fully. But I understand the need to raise awareness and facilitate discussions, real discussions, about problems that I’ve come to realize are a lot more common than I had thought.

    And the fact that I hadn’t thought about it has been troubling me. Why hadn’t I been aware? Why hadn’t I realized earlier that I wasn’t aware? How much of that is my own fault? Part of the blame, I think, lies in a lack of exposure. The stigma that surrounds rape, molestation, and other assaults, not only keeps victims silent, but inhibits the awareness, education, and exposure we, as a society, could desperately use. That I, as a youth and younger man, could have benefited from. I worry that my own ignorance amounted to passive endorsement or condonation of rape culture. That thought scares me.

    But that the young women behind these last two editions of Empathize This considers herself lucky to have been attacked *only* twice terrifies me. That most of the women I’ve come to know in the last year have been assaulted, raped, or involved in abusive relationships has left me alternately feeling depressed and and angry, but in both cases helpless. I find myself less and less comfortable with simply being a member of this society and this world. But I’ve learned that my discomfort, and the shit I’ve dealt with in my own life–poverty, homelessness, mental health issues, drug addiction in my immediate family–doesn’t begin to compare with what so many women have experienced.

    So I appreciate this project. I wish it was around when I was younger, and I wish there was still more exposure, discussion, and education now.

    Thank you.

    • Tak says: |
      May 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      Thanks for the comment Chris.

      While I can’t speak for the author, here are my thoughts: It is impossible to be truly aware of all the issues and our own passive endorsements. That’s how privilege works. So I agree with you, in that we really need to listen to the experience and opinions of those who live with being marginalized.

      But you’re also not helpless in making a positive change. While we can’t ever speak for others because we will always be ignorant, we can support their voices, and be an ally.

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